Muddied waters in the 2015 Democratic gubernatorial bid cleared some Thursday as former Kentucky Auditor Crit Luallen formally bowed out of consideration.
Luallen’s announcement eases the path for Attorney General Jack Conway, who called the former auditor “the gold standard for public service,” and current Auditor Adam Edelen, who said her decision “certainly affects” his.
Luallen, a Frankfort native who served two terms as state auditor from 2003-2011, thanked her supporters for their encouragement as she mulled running for governor, saying in a statement that enthusiasm “made this a very difficult decision and one that required careful consideration.” She expressed optimism “that others will step forward with the leadership and vision to move our state forward.”
“I remain passionate about Kentucky and its potential for the future,” Luallen said in a statement. “But in the end, I had to make the decision based on what I thought was best for me personally and my family. I am blessed with a wonderful marriage, a large extended family and a circle of good friends.
“My husband, Lynn, and I both have our health and a lot we want to do and enjoy together. This simply wasn’t the right time in our lives for us to make the decision to enter the race.”
Other prominent Democrats mulling the race have ceded to Luallen as she made her decision. Republican Hal Heiner, a former Louisville Metro Council member and unsuccessful mayoral candidate, remains the only gubernatorial candidate who has officially announced thus far.
Two potential Democratic frontrunners, Conway and Edelen, offered gratitude for Luallen’s service, though only Edelen addressed the upcoming race.
“As excited as I am about ensuring that the 2015 governor’s race contrasts the future with the familiar, I’m committed to maintaining a laser-focus on my work as the taxpayer watchdog,” Edelen said in a statement, adding Luallen’s announcement “will be a disappointment to many.”
“In that spirit, I’ll have no announcements of a political nature until the conclusion of the examination of the Jefferson County Public Schools.”
Edelen announced last April that his office would examine the largest Kentucky school district’s management and spending practices at the behest of the school board.
Said Conway: “In so many ways, I am grateful for her guidance and wisdom. My family would not be where we are today without Crit Luallen.”
Other Democrats rumored to be considering a run for governor include House Speaker Greg Stumbo and former Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo.
“Crit Luallen has been a fine public servant and was an inspiration to a number of people throughout her years of public service,” Stumbo said in a statement. “She was a dedicated worker for the commonwealth, and I wish her the best in whatever she chooses to do.”
In an end-of-session press conference with reporters last week, Stumbo said he would announce his intent for the higher office after legislative leadership races early next year.
He said Democrats’ primary focus should remain Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes’ Democratic bid for the U.S. Senate against U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“I think to announce your plans earlier is going to be viewed as self-serving,” he said.
Still, he conceded delaying his decision could hamper a potential gubernatorial bid.
“I would start out behind, but I did that when I ran for attorney general — I secured my position as majority floor leader before I announced my candidacy,” Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said last week. “I spoke to my caucus to make sure my caucus was alright with that decision.
“So does it put me at a disadvantage? Maybe. Did I overcome it before? Yes.”
Thursday’s announcement isn’t the first time Luallen has pulled her name from a major Kentucky election. She was often listed as a potential McConnell challenger, but decided against the U.S. Senate bid back in 2012. That left the door open for Grimes, who said in a statement Thursday she admired and appreciated Luallen’s “decades of service” to Kentucky.
“I look up to Crit as a mentor and will continue to count on her valuable advice throughout the race as there is much left to do to move Kentucky forward,” Grimes said.